All-Star Panel: Reaction to Mike Morell's testimony on Benghazi

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," April 2, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, R - MN: Mr. Morell, they didn't have to change because you make the changes for them.


BACHMANN: That's the point, that's why you're in front of this committee today. You made significant, substantive changes for the White House. Whether it was on behalf, we don't know, but we know you are the one who made those changes.

MORELL: Ma'am, if you look at the record, what you will see is the changes I made were fully consistent with what our analysts believed at the time, period. There's an implication in what you're saying that the analysts were aware of the eyewitness accounts when they did their analysis, wrote it on the 12th and disseminated on the 13th. They were not aware. They were not aware of the eyewitness accounts.

REP. DUTCH RUPPERSBERGER, D - MD: I never expected more than a year and a half after the attack that we would still be talking about this. Who changed the talking points? We need to focus again as I said on tracking down the people who did this, and I hope we're close to that.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: A fiery day of testimony on Capitol Hill as the former deputy CIA director Mike Morell appeared before the Intelligence Committee in the House. We are following the breaking news in Fort Hood. As we get more information we'll break into this panel and throughout the show as we get firm facts from the ground. Let's bring in our panel, Steve Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, A.B. Stoddard, associate editor of The Hill, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer. Steve, your thoughts, reactions to the overall day of Morell up there?

STEVE HAYES, SENIOR WRITER, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I guess I would have expected more contrition from Mike Morell. This is somebody who when he was quizzed about this in front of both the House and Senate committees in closed session didn't cop to the fact that he was the one who did most of the edits to the talking points. When James Clapper was asked this, Morell sat silently next to Clapper and didn't say I was the one who made most of the changes. Clapper said he didn't know. There were answers repeatedly in those closed sessions that he didn't know. And I guess I would have expected a little more contrition from Mike Morell about that. Now he mentioned it, but he didn't really I think apologize as much as he ought to have.

Previously, he had testified emphatically according to the Senate Intelligence Committee that he provided those talking points to the White House just for their awareness, not for coordination. Now, the e-mails that were released, the 100 pages of e-mails that were released last fall, clearly show that the White House was coordinating with Morell, with the CIA, and that he hadn't just provided them for awareness.

Today, in his testimony this afternoon or this morning, he said in fact that he provided the talking points for the White House's final coordination. So he clearly contradicted what he said before. I think the big takeaways on substance are actually where Morell diverged from the administration's story. As Catherine Herridge pointed out earlier, at one point he was asked about the question of the video.

BAIER: Well, I think we have that exchange, quickly, about the video.


REP. JEFF MILLER, R-FL: What was your reaction when you saw her explanation about what happened?

MORELL: I did not see her on the Sunday shows, as I said --

MILLER: You have never seen -- you have never seen --

MORELL: I did not see her on the Sunday shows, as I said. And it was probably days later that I read what she said on the shows.

MILLER: And what was your reaction when you finally did?

MORELL: My reaction was two-fold. One was that what she said about the attacks evolving spontaneously from a protest was exactly what the talking points said, and it was exactly what the intelligence community analysts believed. When she talked about the video, my reaction was, that's not something that the analysts had attributed this attack to.


BAIER: "She" is Susan Rice on those Sunday shows.

HAYES: That's a big moment. The video was a central part of the Obama administration's narrative about what had happened in Benghazi. And it appeared out of whole cloth, apparently. He's right that it wasn't in the talking points. It was mentioned once in passing in the talking points. But here you've got then deputy director of the CIA saying, in effect, we disowned the video. That was all the White House. That was Susan Rice. That's not us. That was the one substantive thing. The second one very briefly is when he said he had taken, the agency had taken the word of analysts based in Langley over all of the people on the ground.

BAIER: That was pretty striking in that for the CIA station chief was up on the hill saying he was saying, hey, listen, no protest.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, THE HILL: I was really surprised at how completely confused, beyond inconsistent, he was. It's really beyond disconcerting. He couldn't get to contrition because he countered himself so many times, it's unbelievable. He basically said there was so much information coming in at the beginning that I thought that it was both a terrorist attack and a response to a protest. And they're not mutually exclusive, and I've always thought they were both.

Meanwhile, he says he only listened to people who told him it was a protest. In the CIA station chief's report or anyone else that was coming in –

BAIER: From the ground.

STODDARD: -- from the ground saying he was getting e-mails and other press reports, including local, saying that it was an attack, he says weren't compelling and often they were refuted. So he made his own system of how he would compile the information and assess it and never said we're getting reports of both. And he also at the same time said "I really wish, chairman, that two years ago in November of 2012, I had just told you I didn't take out Al Qaeda from the points, but I had taken out other things." This is a deputy CIA director.

BAIER: And so Charles, he also says that all of this happened and then it's divorced from politics. It is bureaucratic mistakes, he said, and he then apologized for not speaking up when he was asked, while actually Director Clapper was asked and he sat silent next to Director Clapper about who took out Al Qaeda from the taking points.

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, it's rather -- it's a curious coincidence that when he decides to ignore what he's hearing from the people on the ground who were right there, who can actually see what's going on or communicating on the ground live as it's happening with other people, he decides that evidence is going to be ignored, and he goes with an analyst in Langley whom he said, as we just saw in that clip, was not aware of the eyewitness accounts. It is passing strange that the account of the analyst in Langley is precisely the kind of cover story that would get the White House off the hook.

BAIER: We're going to do another round on Benghazi. We have an update on the situation at Fort Hood, just getting now from a background senior law enforcement official saying it is believed that the threat of one shooter has been neutralized. They are aware there may be another shooter in the vicinity, and they are continuing with that in mind, as law enforcement always does. Again, a shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, there are multiple injuries, we are told, from people on the ground. A producer talked to someone there saying there are at least two in the ER right now. We're waiting for more information from Fort Hood, but, again, senior law enforcement officials saying it's believed the threat of one shooter has been neutralized. Stay with us.

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